Chris Evans goes for high-functioning drug addict and proves winning. No really, I shouldn’t make that joke.

Puncture is one of those slick “based on a true story” movies that seems to get that, all too often, those types of movies are moralizing, middle of the road, and message-ridden to the point of distraction. The Three M’s of BTS (or just BS) Movies, Evan’s Theory of. Don’t believe me? This movie begins with Road to Joy by Bright Eyes and ends with Rusted Wheel by The Silversun Pickups. Fuckin’ slick, I says.

Instead of heading down the preaching road too far, Puncture weighs the personal story its troubled protagonist, a drug abusing narcissist, against the larger tale and overall message of the film: corporations are fucking assholes. And what better year than 2011 for that particular bit of wisdom. I may sound sarcastic but I’m not intending to, I really do think that this is the year where some degree of cheek turning toward the many sins of corporate greed goes the other way. Of course, movies like In Time and Puncture are more likely to be happy coincidences or simply timely than they are to be attempts at cashing in on what may indeed become a widespread change in the social mood toward such things.

But back to the movie.

Mark Kassen plays Weiss’s partner and, aside from an affecting scene toward the end, is the essence of bland. It’s not really his fault thanks to how watchable Evans is and how eccentric Weiss was.

Puncture is about the dogged crusading of Mike Weiss (Chris Evans, here a charisma machine and dark engine of self-destruction) to tackle the big purchasing groups responsible for medical supplies monopolies and the tabling of advances in product lines, in this case syringes, that are demonstrably safer. I can’t make much comment about the veracity of the claims and I think the movie, funded by Safety Point the company making the main product around which the true story and this movie take place, is something of a political move as much as it is an attempt to get the story of Weiss, who may have died under mysterious circumstances (the movie would certainly have us think so, in spite of his dangerous lifestyle) as a direct result of his refusal to give up the fight.

But back to the movie.

The catalyst of the big legal battle is a young nurse (Vinessa Shaw) who contracts HIV/AIDs from accidentally sticking herself with an infected needle. One of her father’s friends, Jeffrey Dancort (Marshall Bell) is an inventor who innovates a syringe that is non-reusable and totally safe against accidental sticking. As luck would have it, Mike Weiss is an ambitious and smart young lawyer looking for a cause and ropes in his more pragmatic partner and friend, Paul Danziger, along for the ride. Along with an emotionally and mentally unprepared Dancort, the two try and consistently fail to drum up enough support to carry the issue with the fictitious medical supplies company that spends millions to maintain the status quo in the interest of profits. As it gets more difficult, Weiss gets more into it to the point of obsession. The reason this is a deft move is that it gives the audience a lot to mull over since so much of Puncture is the Story of Mike Weiss. Is the guy really interested in saving people or does he just want to win big? With the linchpin figure of the whole campaign being such a fucked up wild-card, the story of the film is allowed to breathe without losing the audience with heavy-handed preaching.

While some of Weiss’s antics are entertaining, most of the movie functions as a serious legal drama with social-issue underpinnings. An element that falls completely flat is the inclusion of Michael Biehn as a mysterious figure who is first introduced as a possible threat of some kind. He follows Weiss around, looking vaguely sinister. Eventually he confronts Weiss and begins 10 minutes of preaching that feel like they belong to a different movie. This scene comes after Danzinger and Dancort are preparing to throw in the towel and I suppose it’s meant to function as some kind of 3rd act pivot to get Weiss that last thrust of righteous indignation required to keep fighting the good fight against sophist pricks like Price (Brett Cullen), the lead lawyer for the evil corporation. Whatever the intention, it is just downright bizarre and doesn’t work except to remind the audience that this is an Issue Movie if, by some miracle of inattention, they were not aware by now.

Nice to see you, Mr. Biehn. A bit creepy though.

Whatever the faults, it’s hard to argue that the movie doesn’t make its case well. The conflict is a relatable one, especially these days, and Weiss is an interesting and tragic figure whatever the true circumstances of his death. The performances are all spot on for this type of thing and Evans is especially strong, though he has been stronger in other films playing this type of character (London comes to mind). I also have to give the movie points for not leaning too heavily on some kind of druggie redemption subplot which they easily could have done to give it some OOO INSPIRATION sizzle. Ultimately, the Kassen brothers (Mark acts too!) are apparently savvy enough directors not to fall into that trap and keep the movie pretty much above-board except for those inevitably preachy bits, some off self-indulgence (Biehn and the heavy suggestion that Weiss was murdered), and the obligatory end credits that explain where things stand now. Weiss’s drug use is never allowed to take over the movie, though it is an omnipresent element that inevitably affects his performance and the trust of those around him.

All in all, it’s worth it for Evans’ performance with some potential additional mileage depending on how you feel about this type of movie.

Oh Chris Evans, DRUGS ARE BAD!

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